Another Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review

Ever since Iron Man came out in 2008, the non-Disney studios have been desperate to build their own cinematic universe franchises. Outside of one or two arguable exceptions, these attempts have fallen flat on their faces. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly has a Marvel-style franchise on its mind. It aims for the same sort of action that Disney has put out for the last fifteen...

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Ever since Iron Man came out in 2008, the non-Disney studios have been desperate to build their own cinematic universe franchises. Outside of one or two arguable exceptions, these attempts have fallen flat on their faces. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly has a Marvel-style franchise on its mind. It aims for the same sort of action that Disney has put out for the last fifteen years full of big CGI, a heavy sprinkling of wisecracks and a dash of heart. Honor Among Thieves doesn’t entirely nail all those targets in the bullseye but it gets close enough to do the one thing a lot of those would-be franchise kickoffs forget to do; be a pretty good movie in its own right.


For Beth Rimmel's EN World review of Honor Among Thieves, click here!


Edgin the Bard (Chris Pine), Holga the Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez), Doric the Druid (Sophia Lillis) and Simon The Sorcerer (Justice Smith) come together as an ensemble definitely cast in the Guardians of the Galaxy mold of unlikely heroes who have personal motivations to steal from bad guy Forge (Hugh Grant) and maybe save the world after, time permitting. The plot feels appropriate for a D&D with an overarching story that has quests to fulfill before it resolves. There are plenty of lore drops, the spellcasters using magic by calling out their proper D&D titles and a tease of an even Bigger Bad that definitely feels like the kind of thing they want to resolve in a few years and a few movies.

However, Honor Among Thieves works best when it borrows from an entirely unexpected franchise: Ghostbusters. That film works because the lore and worldbuilding are played relatively straight with the humor coming from the reactions of the working class heroes to all this weird supernatural stuff. That’s where the line is drawn in this film, where characters will casually drop names and places from all over the Forgotten Realms before letting the leads riff on them for a bit. Pine definitely has the best lines, though Rodriguez gets a few laughs as Pine’s surly straight man that occasionally dips into “let’s just kill ‘em all” power gamer. It’s one of the keys to the authenticity of the experience. Throw a big scary monster at most veteran D&D players and they’ll crack a few jokes as they roll initiative.

That authenticity extends to the various plans our heroes come up with in the course of the film. Though the film has really leaned into the fantasy heist movie branding, you won’t find any convenient flashbacks or tropes like “actually that bad guy was with us the whole time” here. Instead, the group comes up with a plan, whiffs a few die rolls executing the plan, then changes to an entirely different plan. There’s also a few unexpected uses of magic and magic items in the film where you can almost hear the DM’s sigh of exasperation as the good guys use the item in a way that circumvents their carefully laid out plot.

This theoretical DM gets a little bit of revenge with the appearance of Xenk the Paladin (Rege-Jean Page). This character appears in an extended second act cameo and feels like a character from a much different D&D movie. More specifically, it feels like a character from an earlier campaign who overshadows the rest of the group. Luckily, most of these moments are played for laughs, and Page is game to tackle making a classic Lawful Good character likable even if the rest of the group roll their eyes when he’s delivering lore.

Xenk’s shorter arc highlights one of the slight weaknesses of the film. Doric and Simon don’t get character traits beyond their initial ones of “earnest eco-warrior” and “sorcerer with terrible dice luck”. The leads reflect a few different philosophies of players and backstory. Edgin is mostly there to crack jokes even though his backstory is central to the film, while Holga’s player has brewed a romance that only she wants to work on. Grant is fine in his role as scummy ex-associate willing to sell out anyone for a gold piece, but his character makes a couple moves that feel less like character choices and more like “because then we’d end early for the evening after you all died.”

Also, for a film that’s supposed to be a twisty heist there aren’t really many surprises in the script: no sudden betrayals, no fake sellouts or any other staples of the heist movie. Even the low point of the second act where everyone threatens to walk away gets resolved in just a few minutes thanks to a self deprecating speech by Pine. Ultimately this works to the films' advantage as it never feels like its two hour run time. I love those regular nine hour extended viewings of Lord of the Rings like everyone else, but I’ll be excited to pop this on as a comfort movie when I want some fantasy adventure and not devote the whole day to it.

D&D: Honor Among Thieves is a family friendly action comedy with franchise dreams that hits the right notes for fans of the game and folks who just want to see Chris Pine play a lute. It may bring more players into the game. It may not. But it’s good enough to bring younger family members who might want to know about game nights or older members who always wondered what went on in the basement.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

gban007

Adventurer
So what type of humor is in the movie?

My spouse has a pretty narrow taste for comedy. No "stupid" humor (her definition) -- that encompasses both the slapstick and deliberately obtuse, or over-the-top (think Will Ferrell, Jim Carey), cringe humor (Rebel Wilson), and sadly extends to dry, witty, and multi-layered (Monty Python, Hitchhiker's Guide). The kind of traditional middle-of-the-road comedy you'd see in your average rom-com or in an action movie she's fine with.
Second time we went to the movie we went with some people who hadn't played D&D, they felt it gave up The Princess Bride type of feel, if that helps.
 

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Dire Bare

Legend
I didn't get a high fantasy vibe. The only people that used magic were heroes and villains. The normal armies had no magic. No magic for the Harpers either.
High fantasy isn't just "everybody uses magic".

Did you see some of that insane architecture? We saw folks ranching axebeaks! Rust monsters wrestling in alleys over metal scraps! Bird, cat, and dragon people hanging out like it's no big deal!

This was definitely "high fantasy" . . . which is very true to the source material.
 



Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I liked they went down the monsters route and didn't need to rely on orcs, goblins etc
They went with cultists, basically. Always a safe bad guy option.

I do wonder what the plan for humanoids actually is going to be going forward. Pretty much every community in the film was very, very multicultural.
 



no that was dumb and bad marketing, I want the movie actually make money so we get more of them and if you make large part of the audience feel disrespected and unwanted that won't happen. They walked it back in the interview, but it was too late. Honestly both sides frustrate me, your side doesn't get why that was wrong, and even mean, and the other side is like a dog with a bone and the rest of us are in the middle trying to keep the tempture down and the fun flowing.
I disagree. It was taken out of context with people who had an agenda. If you read the whole article they were quoted in, you can see how they like to make male leads less the super hero/savior.
 

ViArca

Villager
I tried to explain to my wife how "over-powered" the druid's wild shape was.
Hard to do it justice though, as the druid out manoevered a level 18 wizard and her 100 guards.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I think this can be a bit overstated. Marvel didn’t invent the quip, and I don’t think the comedy relies very much on quippy humor. It often plays more broadly, like the Revel’s End escape, or the Edgin illusion. I’d say show her the Speak With Dead clip. If she likes it, there’s more where that came from. If she doesn’t like it, she probably won’t like the comedy in the rest of the movie.
Pirates of the Carribean then? Of course MCU did invent the quip anymore than PotC or 80s Arnold, but itis ‘in the style’ of
 

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